What Does 'Editing' or 'Retouching' Really Mean?

If you like poking bears with sticks, tell a professional photographer that all they do is point and shoot, and then give the client the file. In fact, there is usually more time spent in post-processing than there is in the actual shooting. For me, personally, it averages about 3 hours of post-processing to every 1 hour of shooting. Sometimes way less, and sometimes way more.

So what exactly is done during this post-processing/editing/retouching? Again, this isn’t something that is the same for all professional photographers. Just like there are many, many things to photograph (ie newborns, pets, weddings, events), there are many, many ways for a photographer to process their images. So to give you an idea, I’ll let you in on what I do:

  1. Upload the images from the camera to the computer;

  2. Cull the images that aren’t fit for public viewing. Trust me, these get deleted, and I don’t ever use these for blackmail purposes ;)

  3. Curate a gallery of final images that encompass the whole session, without having duplications, or images that I am not happy with;

  4. Tweak the exposure and white balance of every final image to make sure the colours are true and that the image ‘pops’; and

  5. Finally (and this is the longest part), retouch each image to remove all the little extra bits that are distractions in a photo, and don’t help tell the story

Retouching, to me, isn’t about making someone look skinner, or removing features that make them who they are. Photography is about creating an image or gallery of images that tell a story, a defining moment in time. Retouching/editing just removes the distractions.

For a bit of fun (because I’m weird like that), I compiled a list of the different types of things I have removed from photos just over the past week:

  • mosquitos (and lots of them)

  • paint chips

  • a videographer

  • leashes (and a collar)

  • the ‘lipstick’ of an over-excited pup

  • an unfortunate pimple

  • grass clippings off someone’s pants

  • nose boogers and eye boogers (dogs and humans)

  • cake crumbs

  • a tree stump

  • bobby pins

Before & Afters

Here are a few of my favourite before and afters, and are perfect examples of why your dog does not have to be on their best behaviour during a pet photography session.

 My husband was helping me out with chauffeuring Axle & Violet to their humans’ wedding. While he is a good looking rooster, I didn’t think A&V’s humans would like the image as much with him in the background ;). Retouching included removing Mr Hops, removing Violet’s visible leash, and cleaning up the leaf litter off Axle’s beard and chest hair.

My husband was helping me out with chauffeuring Axle & Violet to their humans’ wedding. While he is a good looking rooster, I didn’t think A&V’s humans would like the image as much with him in the background ;). Retouching included removing Mr Hops, removing Violet’s visible leash, and cleaning up the leaf litter off Axle’s beard and chest hair.

 Daredevil and Kida were pretty great models individually, but were a little too focused on getting to the treats at times. Retouching included a complex leash removal, collar removal on Daredevil, and removal of Baden’s hand/arm.

Daredevil and Kida were pretty great models individually, but were a little too focused on getting to the treats at times. Retouching included a complex leash removal, collar removal on Daredevil, and removal of Baden’s hand/arm.

 While they do love each other, Jerzi & Lexi weren’t that keen on standing beside each other during their session. So we took their images individually, and then composited them together. Leashes were also removed, along with a fence in the background.

While they do love each other, Jerzi & Lexi weren’t that keen on standing beside each other during their session. So we took their images individually, and then composited them together. Leashes were also removed, along with a fence in the background.


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